To Guide and Bless: Graduation

To Guide and Bless: Graduation

practicumThis past week smiled on luminous accomplishments: the graduation of my first class of South African learners, and my graduation to a new phase of the Umama School of Cooking – baking!

I had hinted to my host mother that my future family in KZN, to say nothing of myself, might recall my time in Bundu even more fondly if we had some tangible token to treasure…baked goodies, for example.

She obliged by imparting to me a coveted recipe for “amakhekhe” – the Zulu word for cake, here applied to mouthwatering tea biscuits!

I first became acquainted with amakhekhe when my host mother churned out buckets of them – literally, buckets – for the anniversary ceremony we attended in Kwamhlanga. It didn’t take long to discover that the tasty treat turned heavenly when dunked in hot tea.

Imagine my delight when I arrived home from training one afternoon to find the kitchen counters cleared of everything but baking ingredients. Umama imparted the secret of their making to me, and here I impart it to you.

Umama counseled spicing the dough with something to combat the “egg flavor.” Rejecting the almond extract she had mistakenly purchased instead of vanilla, she improvised with lemon zest. This turned out to be a happy accident that impressed all of us so much, it may permanently grace future batches.

The baking lesson lent a sweet conclusion to my first teaching venture in-country: a three week practicum at our local primary school.

Superstar awards for outstanding behavior!

I owe the success of my classroom management largely to a textbook bequeathed to us by Peace Corps: The First Days of School by Harry and Rosemary Wong. The book rests its strategies on a simple proposition – that children profit from predictable routines.

Armed with this conviction, I dedicated our first class together to absorbing classroom rules and rehearsing procedures. From then on, my learners obliged me with unwavering attention and earnest diligence.

For the content of my lessons, the British educator Charlotte Mason guided my steps. Cherrydale Press has distilled her methods for foreign language instruction into slim yet thorough textbooks, which I downloaded as ebooks in the first panic of lesson planning.

The investment paid off: My learners thrilled to the narration exercise, even those who struggled with other English tasks.

In deference to Charlotte Mason’s emphasis on “living stories,” I shared selections from “Summer Sun” by Robert Louis Stevenson and The Secret Garden. By selections, I mean that I whittled these works mercilessly, to nubs of five sentences and two stanzas, so that my learners had a prayer of digesting them in 45-minute sessions.

With such small bricks, we built our time together. By the last day, when I said I would miss them, they said they would miss me, too.


One Response »

  1. How wonderful that you have begun your teaching so successfully! 😀 The pastries look delicious…maybe Alberto and I will try to make them sometime.

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